HR & Management

10 things you should NEVER say when firing someone

3 min read

03 February 2012

About to fire someone? Wield the axe carefully. Here are ten things you should never say when sacking an employee.

1) “You’re fired!”

Shooting from the hip when dealing with staff is never a good thing. On-the-spot or impulsive dismissals will almost always be unfair. Good employers always maintain sensitivity. Lord Sugar, you’ve been warned.

2) “Staff have complained about your afternoon praying.”

You cannot dismiss someone because of their religion, even if certain rituals impact the working day or have drawn complaints from fellow colleagues. Educate your staff through training and diversity awareness. 

3) “It was your halitosis. It offended the customers.” 

Don’t even go there. If you are dismissing an employee on the grounds of their physical appearance, you need to be sure it is not connected to a disability. If it is, then consider whether dismissal could be “objectively justified”.

4) “As a small business, we cannot allow you ‘swap’ maternity leave with your wife.”

Actually, fathers can now opt for the mother to go back to work so they can take over the balance of any maternity leave. There is no small business exemption. 

5) “Redundancies need to be made. And as the part-time person on the team, you have to be the first to go.”

Not only is it unlawful to discriminate against part-time workers but it is also indirect sex discrimination.

6) “We just thought that, at 65, you should retire.”

You can no longer automatically retire employees at 65 – unless you have objective justification to do so. 

7) “You’re young and pretty. You’ll find another job – especially if you keep with the short skirts.”

This could be misconstrued as sexual harassment.

8) “You’ve labelled me a racist, which is completely untrue. I cannot keep you on if that’s what you think of me.”  

Employees have the right to make complaints if they believe they’ve been discriminated against. They are then protected from any detrimental treatment from having raised such a compliant – even if the complaint was not upheld.  

9) “You clearly struggle with the physical side of the job. We just think that this role is better suited to a man. We should never have employed a women in the first place.”

This would be indirect sex discrimination.

10) “We didn’t realise you were homosexual when you joined. As a Christian organisation, I’m afraid we’ll have to let you go.”

Another big no-no. This would be discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Vanessa James is a partner and head of employment at Herfordshire-based SA Law.